Archive | February 2022

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit











The Velveteen Rabbit

Margery Williams Bianco

Hélène Magisson

New Frontier, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99


Sitting at the top of the Boy’s Christmas stocking is a stuffed rabbit, sewn in a snuggly fabric called velveteen, and by far the most impressive present amongst the nuts, oranges, chocolate almonds and a clockwork mouse.  But in a time of new-fangled mechanical toys the wonder doesn’t last long and the Velveteen Rabbit is soon discarded for toys with more whizbangery and it sits forlorn and forgotten in the nursery.

Wondering what it has done to deserve this fate, it confides in wise Skin Horse that he longs to be a real rabbit.  Skin Horse tells him that toys do become real when they are loved by children.  But the chances of that happening seem unlikely until the Boy becomes ill with scarlet fever and his nanny gives him the rabbit for company…

Reimagined with new illustrations in the softest of palettes, this is a classic story  first published in 1922, that epitomises this year’s CBCA Book week theme of Dreaming with eyes open.  It is not only quite an intense story with a number of twists and turns meaning it is probably one better shared and discussed with a child over a few sessions, but as with the stories of that era, it was intended to teach young children lessons about life and there are a number of these embedded in the narrative.  So it throws up issues such as whether one’s looks really matter – it is who we are rather than what we look like; that there are hills and dales and ups and downs in everyone’s life and having the resilience to see them through shapes who we are and builds us for the next drama; that loving someone can be painful and that it can mean letting them go; to be careful what you wish for because the grass may not always be greener; and most importantly, IMO, is that who we are is enough.  We don’t need to depend on the validation of others for our self-worth and confidence.

It might even spark a philosophical discussion about reality – what is real and how do we distinguish between the various versions of reality that the author presents with such conviction and so convincingly? If reading is dreaming with your eyes open, where is the border? 


The Worst Sleepover in the World

The Worst Sleepover in the World

The Worst Sleepover in the World









The Worst Sleepover in the World

Sophie Dahl

Luciano Lozanzo

Walker Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Ramona is having her best friend Gracie to stay the night. It’s their first ever sleepover and she wants to make a den, read stories, dance like a wild thing, stay up all night and have a midnight feast. It’ll be the BEST SLEEPOVER IN HISTORY. But nothing quite goes to plan. Gracie turns out to be incredibly fussy, Mum is very understanding but even her patience gets tested, and Ramona is disappointed that her night has not lived up to expectation.  Will they be able to solve their problems and still be friends in the morning?

As a young girl, Sophie Dahl spent a lot of time with her grandfather, the incomparable Roald Dahl (whom she called Mold because “her baby tongue” couldn’t get itself around Norwegian Roo-al [silent d]) and, in her words, he “cast a spell over her childhood.”  But he also gifted her his ability to tell a great story, and although this is only her second children’s book (the first, Madame Badobedah)  it is totally absorbing.  The characters and the situation are so relatable that their will scarcely be an adult or child who won’t be taken back to memories of sleepovers that they have experienced.  Delving into the lives of the Dahls, you can see there are many elements that Sophie has drawn on to portray Gracie, Ramona and even little sister Ruby, so they are very realistic and credible and one imagines her depiction of the single mum trying everything to appease Gracie’s demands so she is safe and comfortable would be aligned to that of her own mum. 

Lozano’s illustrations capture the expressions and the mood exceptionally well and the front cover with mum waving a flag of surrender sums up the story perfectly. 

With school restarting and new friendships being made, the requests for sleepovers is going to get louder and more frequent, and this is the perfect story to share in anticipation!!  The pains and perils and the discoveries and delights of new friendships are explored with humour and a gentle touch, but you have been warned…  

The World Awaits

The World Awaits

The World Awaits











The World Awaits

Tomos Roberts


Farshore, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


As one little boy lies in bed one morning, not wanting to face the day, it’s up to his older brother to show him the extraordinary potential within him and how even the smallest of his actions will make the world a better place . . .

In the child’s world of the here and now, where it seems that their world has been dominated by restrictions and limits for ever, and even just the regular routine of going to school is a list of must-dos and dont’s, where even they, as littlies, are subjected to an uncomfortable nose-swab test every other day, it is easy to see why the prospect of staying in bed and hiding under the doona is an attractive option.  Without the adult’s ability to see the big picture and know that each day they get up and face is a day closer to the end of this situation, even the child’s natural resilience can be tested and their robust (or not-so) mental health can be chipped away.

But how do you explain to the child who mostly lives in Piaget’s world of the concrete operational stage where they are becoming more aware of the world around them but are straddling the phases of things needing to be real and that of being able to think and act in the abstract, that they have something called potential and that they can make a difference? Cleverly, in this poem, which is a conversation between adult and child,  Roberts breaks this concept down into things the child does understand – the concepts of adding and subtracting to a larger element known as the ‘common good’ and identifying simple everyday things, like ringing a grandparent, that they can do that contribute rather than withdraw.

“In our core is a plus and minus, and they’re eternally at play.

They give us the power to add goodness to the world or to take some good away.” 

As with The Great Realisation, Roberts shows his ability to take himself to the child’s level, to talk to them in language they understand, yet at the same time provide layers of meaning that more mature readers can delve into. So while he talks to the child of making its bed or helping a struggling beetle back on its feet, there are also more oblique references to the global situation –

A little look at human history tells us all we need to know

It’s no surprise the toughest times were when that number got too low.  

As with that first book, throughout this one are the threads of hope, of better times and of the child having the power to make the decisions and take the actions that will improve things for all, not just themselves.

Roberts’ poems have been described as “a manifesto for our time” and with his ability to connect with kids of all ages, he is certainly one whose works need attention and further explanation.  Perhaps exploring this poem with a child in your realm, and offering them a way forward, is your addition to the bucket of common good for today. one that will have a long-term benefit that, as a teacher, you may never see or know.  As important as it is invisible. 

Rusty, the Rainbow Bird

Rusty, the Rainbow Bird

Rusty, the Rainbow Bird











Rusty, the Rainbow Bird

Aleesah Darlison

Mel Matthews

Puffin, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


It is the dry season in the northern reaches of Australia, a tough time for tiny Gouldian Finches like Rusty who watches the waterhole shrink knowing that, like all finches, he needs to drink several times a day. But Rusty is lucky, for he has met Olive and after an energetic courtship dance during which he displays displays the magnificent colours that belie his name – a bright green back, yellow belly, a purple breast and black face (although Olive is the rarer red-faced version)  – together they build a nest in a hollow tree and get ready to raise their young, adding to the population of these endangered birds. It is hard work feeding six always-hungry mouths but it’s made easier because each baby, although naked and blind, has a colourful pattern on its mouth so its parents can see it in the dark of the hollow.

But even more dire than the shrinking water hole which means that Rusty and Olive have to fly further and further to find the insects and seeds to feed their babies, is the fire that is roaring across the countryside…

This is the third in this series about Australia’s lesser-known endangered species  and like its predecessors,  Poppy, the Punk Turtle  and Coco, the fish with hands both author and artist have created a perfect text attractive and accessible to its intended audience of young readers with a curiosity about the natural world around them. The colour and simplicity of the illustrations catch the eye immediately (as would a Gouldian Finch) and the story written in simple but accurate vocabulary which respects their intelligence, supported by fact boxes, is ideal for introducing young readers to a world beyond their own.

This is an essential collection of stories for any parent or teacher wanting to expand their child’s horizons so they understand that there are many creatures in the environment that need both help and protection from us, and we have a responsibility to them all, no matter how small or obscure.  

Pow Pow Pig (series)

Pow Pow Pig (series)

Pow Pow Pig (series)











An Unexpected Hero


Let the Games Begin


Anh Do

Peter Cheong

Allen & Unwin 2021-2022

184pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

It is the year 2050 and the world is in trouble. In 2030 the rich animals of the world voted to stop helping the poor and as they became richer, forever seeking bigger and better while discarding their unwanted things instead of sharing them, creating a huge amount of waste.  And then the fighting started.

But all is not lost and Piccolo Pig (aka Pow Pow Pig) , inspired by his parents’ role model has yearned to join CHOC (Creatures Helping Other Creatures) to help make the world a better place through small acts of kindness. So as soon as he was old enough he joined, and now, after three years of training it’s Graduation Day. But he and his friends Danielle Duck (aka King Fu Duck), Chelsea Chicken (aka Cha Cha Chicken) and Barry the Goat (aka Barry the Goat) are not in the A Team but the Z Team.  So they are the last to be picked when it comes to world-saving missions,

So when a call comes in and they are the only ones left, it is up to them to save the situation.  Although they live in 2050, they have time machine that allows them to travel back in time but sometimes it doesn’t work as it should.

In their first adventure, An Unexpected Hero, they end up in the Middle Ages and in the second, Let the Games Begin, in Ancient Greece!  

This is a new series from the ever-popular Anh Do, more for younger independent readers as it is all the attributes required to support their transition to novels including a larger font, a light-handed layout and many illustrations.  But, as with his other series like Rise of the Mythix, embedded in the thoroughly modern characters , action, adventure and humour, there is an underlying message that gives the story more than just fleeting entertainment value. By making the heroes creatures often associated with being underdogs and having them as the Z Team , readers can learn that success can take many forms, that not all battles are won with might and power – a tea towel and a broom can be very effective when used cleverly – and that the desire to do well has to come from within. They can also visit other time periods in an exciting adventure, providing a gentle step into the concept of history and offering an insight into life in those times that is much more fun that facts and figures.

Anh Do is a prolific storyteller, and one of our most popular currently, so to be able to offer a new series for a new school year sets up the opportunity for an exciting reading year ahead. 


Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly











Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

Catherine Bauer

Big Sky, 2021 

60pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Kamilaroi man, Len Waters may have been born behind the gates of an Aboriginal reserve, but his big imagination and even bigger dreams took him soaring well beyond the reach of those who tried to confine him.

From his childhood days, Len Waters dreamed of taking to the skies. But being indigenous, born in the 1920s and with just a basic education restricted by rules and regulations, it was an unlikely dream at the time. However dreams can come true and from making his home-made model aeroplanes at his kitchen table,  his supportive family, determination, persistence and work ethic meant  he beat the odds to become Australia’s first known Aboriginal fighter pilot, flying RAAF fighter jets in the south west Pacific in World War II.

Len was a history maker, a young man who didn’t let society’s prejudice, his culture or skin colour stand in his way. But when WWII was over, Len sadly discovered that his service and courage did not result in equality. Len once said that, out of his RAAF uniform, he simply ‘returned to being a black fellow’.

Today, decades later, Len’s determination and achievements are recognised and honoured across Australia, his story now told in the third in this remarkable series that makes Australia’s military history accessible to younger readers. with its age-appropriate text, many coloured photos, and appealing layout. But more than that, it is one of a growing number of titles, which includes Dreaming Soldiers by the same author , that are at last, acknowledging the contribution made by our First Nations peoples and perhaps inspiring those of the current generation to also dream big. 

This series which includes Australia Remembers : ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials  and Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force is a valuable addition to any library’s collection so that our students can learn about the significant events and people of the past that continue to shape us. Len Waters died in 1993, but books like this and The Missing Man are finally bringing his service to prominence and making him so much more than “a black fellow.”  I wonder what he would make of that. 

The Think-Ups

The Think-Ups

The Think-Ups












The Think-Ups

Claire Alexander

Walker Books, 2022 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


It’s a rainy day, and Anna and Kiki are stuck indoors, wondering what to play next. Suddenly, Kiki has an idea for a new game. “All you have to do,” she explains, “is think up a Think-Up and it will appear!” And she thinks up … BUNNIES! Then they conjure up the most marvellous, magnificent MOOSE! And octopi! And nine HUNGRY koalas! – who discover the kitchen! Oh dear … is it possible to UN-think a Think-Up?

This is a story that will appeal to both little ones and their parents because it offers a game they can play on the next rainy day.  While they might not have such dramatic results, nevertheless, it would be fun imagining what might happen of your home was invaded by wandering wombats of a little can’t-catch-me lion. 

Half-cut pages that make for funny surprises at every turn build up anticipation and allow for predicting what might happen when the think-up comes true, enabling the child’s imagination to roam free.

Different, engaging and offers a unique opportunity for the child to create an extra page or two. A case of dreaming with your eyes open…

Round the Twist

Round the Twist

Round the Twist












Round the Twist

Paul Jennings

Puffin, 2022

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Thirty years ago, if you wanted to capture the kids’ attention, particularly boys, through books, no teacher was without a copy of one of the latest Paul Jennings short story collections.  Unreal, Uncanny, Unmentionable, Un-anything – pull it out at any time and you immediately had their undivided attention.  Here, in a few short pages, was someone who mentioned the unmentionable and who brought a blush to the face of many a sensitive teacher (part of the appeal of the stories).

And then Jennings invented the Twist family, fourteen-year-old twins Pete and Linda, eight-year-old son Bronson, and father Tony, a widowed artist who makes sculptures. They live in an old lighthouse on a rugged part of the Victorian coastline and their madcap adventures became one of the most popular on television at the time, and which is now enjoying a resurgence on streaming services.  Beginning in print form first (the new release has the original cover) Jennings agreed to work on the television series in partnership with Esben Storm and this gave him the unique insight into how the series was made that is included in this latest release which includes three of the original stories.

Because of the popularity of both Jennings himself, and the series which ran for 11 years, there is a generation of Australians who not only know his name but can attribute their reading success  to his works and so they will be delighted that such a significant part of their childhood is now opening up for their own children – if, indeed, it ever disappeared.  Fun for fun’s sake! 



The Magic of Magnolia Moon

The Magic of Magnolia Moon

The Magic of Magnolia Moon











The Magic of Magnolia Moon

Edwina Wyatt

Katherine Quinn

Walker , 2021

160pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Magnolia Moon is nine years old, likes Greek mythology, her best friend Imogen May (who understands the importance of questions like, “If you could be one fruit, any fruit, what would you be?”), wishing trees, and speaking crows. She knows instinctively that buffadillos are armadillos crossed with buffalos and believes there are walramingos living in her garden. She’s also the kind of person who can be entrusted with a great many secrets.

But  Magnolia Moon also has other talents – she can walk like a crab, dance with her eyebrows and tidy her room using only her toes. But she can also make magic, and knows that it a way to solve problems. And when you’re starting a new class at school -she’s ten now and about to go into Year Five at Thistledown Primary- and your best friend doesn’t live across the road anymore, problems seem to come easily particularly if you feel you are just put of reach, sailing alone even though others are sailing beside you.

In her latest adventure, the sequel to the award-winning The Secrets of Magnolia Moon Magnolia Moon invents everyday magic to help her navigate the pitfalls of friendship, school, family, and being ten. It’s not your abracadabra type magic though – it’s the sort you see when you’re curious and observant and take the time to be in the moment in the world around you, something that her family and others around her seem too busy to do. “Magnolia felt that Real Life was happening all around her. There was no yesterday, or tomorrow. Only right now.’” With her familiar friends still in the story, including the moon who whispers to her every night, as well as a red robin, Hetty, who makes a home in Magnolia’s feather-filled hair, and a ticking, tutting grandfather clock that nags her for being late to add to the fuss made by her creaking, groaning staircase, her adventures with such recognisable issues not only offer the young reader strategies to apply to their own life but also encourages them to enjoy the now, rather than continually rushing to the next thing as though life is some great race with an intangible reward for some mysterious win. 

And just as she was captivated by the drama and high stakes of the Greek myths in the first book, in this one, Magnolia is inspired by her book of fairytales and she tries to make real-life connections with the stories she reads. It helps her work out who she is and her place in the world, when others are trying to define her in ways that don’t fit her well. 

Like its predecessor, the book spans a year in Magnolia’s life giving the story continuity, each chapter is a separate entity so it is perfect for that bedtime read when just a chapter is enough to transition to the world of dreams. With its recognisable hero mixed with just a touch of fantasy, it is just right for newly independent readers who are reading on and consolidating their love for reading and honing their skills each day. And for those who love this series, there is a third one coming! 

The Same but Different

The Same but Different

The Same but Different











The Same but Different

Molly Potter

Sarah Jennings

Featherstone, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99


“I used to hate having a disability. I hated it so much. I hated being different and, you know, I didn’t want to be here anymore. I really didn’t… Whenever I turned on the TV or the radio or the newspaper, I never saw anybody like me.” Dylan Alcott Australian of the Year 2022.

Nobody who heard Alcott’s words during his acceptance speech could have failed to have been moved by his passion for making a difference for those with disabilities and such was their power in lifting both his profile and his message, that two days later Channel 9 delayed their main nightly news bulletin so we could all witness his final appearance in the Australian Open in its entirety.  And while the match’s result didn’t go to script, nevertheless his message was underlined as time and again the cameras focused on young wheelies in the crowd – all there to watch one who was already a hero and a voice, but one whose voice has just become infinitely louder!

Ever since the UN General Assembly declared 1981 to be the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) with a focus on “a plan of action at the national, regional and international levels, with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities”. slowly, slowly progress has been made and now, as libraries have a real focus on the diversity of their collections, children are seeing themselves in the books they read and the movies they watch.

So the release and review of this book is timely. It explores the ways in which we’re all unique as well as the similarities we share. Using everyday examples, clear explanations and colourful illustrations by Sarah Jennings, this book prompts children to broaden their perspectives and rejoice in their differences while accepting those of others as what makes them unique. Including double-page spreads that focus on how we look, where we live, the languages we speak, what our families are like and what we believe in, it can start important conversations with children about diversity and inclusion. Early Years expert Molly Potter also provides a glossary of terms and notes for parents and carers offering advice on tackling prejudice right from the start.

It took 62 years for the AOTY award to be given to a person with a disability, and Alcott says his purpose is “changing perceptions”  – as educators we can start with our youngest students with books like this.